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Quick Tutorial on Scholarships and Merit Aid
Unlike need-based aid, which is based entirely on your family’s financial situation, merit aid awards are in recognition of your achievements and promise — academic, athletic, community, artistic, intellectual, extracurricular activities, etc.
Merit aid – grants, scholarships and tuition discounts, awarded without regard to financial need – is available to students from wealthy families and those with modest means.
Merit aid, including scholarships, is a gift and, excluding extremely unusual circumstances, does NOT need to be paid back.
According to the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs' (NASSGAP) 38th annual survey, merit aid comprised more than 25% of the $9.3 billion of state-funded aid during recent years. Billions more dollars of merit aid are awarded annually by colleges, universities, endowments and other groups.
During recent years, a number of public and private colleges have stepped-up their merit aid programs to attract top students. At some schools, the growth in merit-based aid has outpaced need-based aid in an effort to attract affluent students with higher board scores who will improve the school’s profile and its potential ranking on the various college lists. Many of these students have less than perfect GPAs.
You can learn about merit aid opportunities from scholarship sites such as Scholarship Road Map, colleges and universities (check the school’s web site or contact the admissions and/or financial aid office), your guidance counselor and state aid agencies. The National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP) provides links to State Aid Agencies.
Scholarships are common source of merit aid. Non-profit groups, corporations, foundations, community organizations, wealthy individuals, religious groups, civic clubs and affinity groups award hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Scholarships come from a variety of sources: colleges, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, religious groups, or professional organizations.
These scholarship sources offer awards for a range of reasons. Some are made available only to students that have financial need. Other scholarships have academic requirements like a minimum GPA or enrollment in a particular major. There are athletic, music, and art scholarships. There are scholarships for minorities, first generation college students, volunteers and some for students with specific community affiliations or religious affiliations.